By Gary Thomas, CDR USCG (ret.)
A few armed vessels, judiciously stationed at the entrances of our ports, might at a small expense be made useful sentinels of the laws."
Most you of will recognize Alexander Hamilton's quote from the Federalist Papers in 1787 as the intellectual foundation for what became the Revenue Cutter Service. As you read this, I am learning to do what many of you already know how to do: be retired. As one of my first acts of retirement, I took up an offer of some great friends of ours to visit them in Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Saint Croix is where Hamilton, founder of the modem Coast Guard, spent his formative years as a child, growing up in Christiansted. Roughly 250 years later, some of the buildings he would have been familiar with still stand, including the fort in which his mother was imprisoned for a brief period. It was interesting to visit the scene of his humble beginnings (remember, he was born out of wedlock, a considerable scandal at the time) and then move forward to today as the USCGC Stratton (WMSL-752), our third National Security Cutter, is readied for commissioning in a few weeks. Despite the march of time, the advance of technology, and globalization of the world in a way Hamilton couldn't have imagined, the Coast Guard exists today because it continues to be "at a small expense" very "useful sentinels of the laws."
I was thinking about the pace of change over those 250 years as I approached writing this column. As an engineer and systems analyst by CG training and experience, Jim mentally geared to development cycles that run in months, maybe a few years at most, and I'm often frustrated by slow-moving developments that often resemble inactivity. With the FCGH in its second decade, my gut wants the Coast Guard Museum built, regional historical collections protected and on display and a vibrant and growing appreciation of our service' s culture and heritage. Alas, as historians remind me regularly, the timetable of history isn't the timetable of an engineer. But we are seeing glimmers of activity that hint at better things to come. As V ADM Hull mentioned, the Commandant (an FCGH Lifetime Member) clearly understands and always expresses the need to learn, understand, and appreciate our organization's history. And the history conference that VADM Hull has been asked to Chair and in which I'll participate will be the first time "we"- the Historian's Office, historical societies, the National Archives, academia, the Department of Homeland Security, and others- have taken a comprehensive view toward addressing the subject. The FCGH's effort I wrote of in the last edition, entitled "A Common Voice for CG History," will playa role in that effort. While historians by their nature are generally a fairly quiet and often staid group of people, there is much to be excited about in the near term.
Of course, with increased visibility comes the chance that more people will ask you to attempt to accomplish more! Recently. Dr. Robert Browning, the Coast Guard Historian, passed me a note with the following request:
"Every now and then we get offers
from people who have old super 8
film, etc., of Coast Guard activities.
They often do not have the
means to convert them. We currently
have a situation of a gentleman
who has 4 reels from tJle
50s and 60s."
If anyone out there can help us convert and then share such films, please let me know. Films such as this are valuable not only because there aren't many in existence but also because they often tell the stories that "official" documentation doesn't. And finally, this year marks the Bicentennial celebration of the War of 18 I 2. The Coast Guard has been active in the planning of many of the events around the country. Recently, USCGC Eagle left the drydock in Baltimore and is making preparations for her participation in OpSail events along the East Coast. If you get a chance, plan a visit to her during one of her port calls, ranging from New Orleans
You can find her schedule here:
Please make your responses to the bridge if you have course corrections we should make. Otherwise, I'll report that we are on our P.I.M.